Publisher/date: Valkyrie Press, Jan. 25, 2022
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Immortals After Dark
REVIEW (skip to plot summary here)
Girls like me don't make it to the end of the story.
🎶 And now she's back! From outer space! 🎶
Our wonderful Queen Kresley is back from her mysterious personal hiatus and can I say that I am super psyched?! Her last release was The Arcana Chronicles 6: The Dark Calling (a YA series) in 2018, and before that the last Immortals After Dark book we got was Wicked Abyss in 2017. You can follow her newsletter for more info on her new releases, but we value our author friends' personal privacy so please don't ask her any personal questions on her form! I can tell you that the next book she plans to release is Book 7 in the Arcana Chronicles. We don't have a date for that yet, but you can follow my social media pages for more insider news on Kresley's books since I'm on her ARC Team (a dream come true for a reader like me!)
Back to Munro. Last we left the IAD series, we heard at the end of MacRieve that he was being held captive by a group of warlocks called The Forgotten who "vassal" (i.e. enslave via sorcery) Lykae in a hidden realm called Quondam to prepare for the war against the Morior. So they should be allied with the Vertas but no, they're going about it completely the wrong way - kidnapping Lykae and forcing them to turn mortals into newlings, young Lykae who cannot control their beasts for more than a decade. The Forgotten, led by Jels the Conniver, can't vassal the Lykae until they release their beasts.
They kidnapped Munro because an old and powerful Lykae like him should have a decent success rate at biting and turning mortals into newlings. The problem is that Munro is so old and powerful that he has too great of control over his beast, and won't release it no matter how they torture him. Oh, but they've also got the ability to time travel - but it requires sacrificing Nymphs at the altar of their very fucked up deity. They go back in time and find Kereny, Munro's mate, who is a carnie from 100 years ago. They injure her to the point of death so that he's forced to release his beast to bite and turn her. Only she doesn't turn. She dies.
Munro manages to break free of enslavement, and threaten a vow from the Lore from Ormlo, Jels' son, to open a portal so he can go back in time and grab her again from the point of her death at 29 years old. But she's not just a carnie. She's a hunter of immortals in the Night War. She's been killing newlings who run rampant through her time, killing entire villages in their rage state. So it's basically her worst nightmare to be turned into a Lykae. And did I mention she's married?
This book was a little different from the previous books. For one, there wasn't as much tension between the two protagonists. They were enemies in name only and had a disagreement over Kereny's mortality, but it wasn't nearly as tense as other books. I think Kresley (and us) really needed a warm sweet book after these past few really terrible years. She really turned down the dial on the toxic traits of the alpha male. We all new Munro was a good guy - I mean between emotionally carrying his brother for millennia and fostering orphaned young Lykae, he's prime DILF material. So I suppose it wasn't a complete surprise. He's just a thousand year old dog who needs to learn a new trick. After my reread of the series it was a bit jarring, because the tension rachets up with each book - and then doesn't taper off but bottoms out in this one. As I said - I think that was intentional.
As someone who has read her entire catalog, it's been so amazing to see how her skill has increased over the years. I've read both the mature PNR and the YA she writes - and the intricate webs she weaves are some of the most impressive I've seen across anything I've read - especially in these genres. This is high fantasy quality plotting in genres that don't see that kind of thing often and I appreciate it so much more for that.
I personally enjoy the high tension in her other books - but I also really appreciate the high quality writing of the personal growth of Munro in this book. Some of the biggest problems I have in the romance genre are toxic traits being lauded as appealing. Listen, we all have our kinks, but many of us have recently become aware of a very young age group reading erotic romance. I'm not one for censoring books, but just like anything else, it requires guidance. If the girls reading these are not being guided by the women more experienced in relationships, they may see real men behaving in the toxic ways they recognize from books and be attracted to it instead of recognizing the red flag. In this book, Munro is so concerned with making Kereny immortal and assuming that he knows best that he completely disregards her wishes. He doesn't try to see it from her perspective. But he learns from his mistake - he's not rewarded for it. This is teaching girls (and women) to recognize it as a toxic trait.
Please don't misunderstand me - there is room for all kinks in books. Books are an amazing medium to express those in since many of those traits would be seriously concerning in real life. The debate I often see on social media is whether these books should even be written - but they are disregarding entirely the people who can read and discern. But the goal should be to teach people to read and discern, not to censor them from ever seeing anything that's unhealthy. Boy have I really gone off the deep end with this analysis, but I am going to try to do better on my platforms to talk about these things and teach.
And that's what I appreciated most about this book - it truly is a teachable moment for Munro. This means that Kresley is keeping up with the times, and let's face it, that's a hard thing for most authors. So again, FUCKING YAY Kresley, I love her, I'm so excited she's back, and I cannot wait to see more from her.
Munro and his warriors are lured into a hidden realm called Quondam with a ruse. Remember when there was a newling Lykae who was killed in the tournament to win Bettina's hand? Well, Munro found out about that and he's after the warlocks who were controlling that Lykae. The Forgotten, led by Jels the Conniver, plan to vassal the Lykae when they release their beasts. When the trap closes, Madadh (Mad Dog - I expect to see his story in a future book) unwittingly releases his beast and is enslaved, turning on his comrades. All are captured.
Ormlo uses Madadh to torture Munro into releasing his beast, but he won't. Until the warlocks open a portal into the past and find Kereny, a carnie and immortal hunter who is long dead - and also Munro's mate. They injure her to the point of death so that he's forced to release his beast to bite and turn her. Only she doesn't turn. She dies.
Munro manages to break free of enslavement, and threaten a vow from the Lore from Ormlo, Jels' the Conniver's son, to open a portal so he can go back in time and grab her again from the point of her death at 29 years old. On her wedding day.
Kereny's parents were killed by ghouls when she was just 13. She and the carnie group she travels with fight the Night War, killing immortals wherever they can. Like The Order, they don't realize that all immortals aren't evil. She is going to marry her second in command, Jacob. They love each other more like siblings but they can't see that at the time.
When Munro comes back in time, he's limited as to how long he can stay in the past before he has to take her out of the portal. So he knows that if he tells her the truth - that she will die and leave her entire family to be slaughtered - that she will never go willingly. Turns out she won't anyway because he's a Lykae - her mortal enemy.
He stays and fights the massive group of newlings to help her save her family, even though he knows the past cannot be changed. He is almost erased from time in the effort and Jacob tells her to go and releases her from their marriage as she vows that if Munro saves them she'll go with him.
They make it to the present time and Munro kills Ormlo and destroys the temple so that no more Nymphs can be sacrificed. In the present, they hide out at a Nymph outpost close to where Kereny's carnival was during that battle. They seek information about the past to see if anyone survived. But Jels, Ormlo's father, is hunting them and offers a bounty for their capture - a use of the time portal. Not everyone believes Munro destroyed it so they are hunted and forced back to the Lykae compound, where Munro tries to convince Kereny to become immortal. He searches for La Dorada's ring to turn her as Lothaire turned Ellie.
Lothaire sends for he and Kereny to come to Dacia, offering Munro the position of Dacia's Lykae emmisary. He also hopes Ellie can convince Kereny of the benefits of immortality. But Kereny does not want Munro to see her as lacking. She wants to be seen as an equal now and be valued for both her skill and her humanity. He cannot focus on anything about her until she becomes immortal.
Kristoff is in Dacia. Munro's king Lachlain has asked him to break Kristoff free, but it turns out that he's not there unwillingly. Though he was at first, now he knows that Lothaire knows where Furie is. And Furie is his mate. Lothaire plays chess with Kristoff every night, and if Kristoff wins he will finally tell Kristoff where Furie is. (If you remember from Dark Skye, we know where she is - she's become ever-drowning decor for the sea god Nereus.)
La Dorada finds them in Dacia and offers Munro use of the ring in trade for a favor in Lothaire's debt book, which now belongs to her. He agrees and to Kereny's surprise tells her he will use it to become mortal like her. When she realizes he has finally understood why she doesn't want to have to change for him, she makes him give the ring back. Dorada, in a rage (because she had plans for Munro's favor that we aren't told yet) siccs her Wendigos on them and uses her control of evil to force Lothaire to fight them too. Kereny dips her magical dagger - it can render an immortal unconscious - in Wendigo blood and throws it at Dorada, burying it in her heart. When Dorada leaves they easily kill the Wendigos, but Munro and Kereny are both scraped. Lothaire's trick of rubbing the wounds with salt only works on immortals.
Kereny tells Munro to bite her - that the first time he tried she didn't want it and fought against it, but this time she would fight for it, for him. He has to trust her to be strong enough. He bites her and 7 days later (a record for Lykae) she turns. Will and Chloe go back to the Amazon to find the giant caiman that swallowed Garreth's witch empowered cuff that held back his beast so that Kereny won't be crazed when she awakens. It works. Nix fortells that the next time her beast is released will either give her complete control of it...or she will lose control forever. And then...she gets pregnant. With twins.
Munro is crazy with worry that when she releases her beast to give birth that she won't be able to reign it back in and he'll lose her forever. They find an immortal OBGYN who will deliver the babies via c-section so that she doesn't have to release her beast. But Jels finds them first.
Munro and Kereny waken short of breath. Kereny's water breaks. Jels couldn't get past the compound's magical wards, so he put a magical bubble around the whole thing - and starts sucking out the air, suffocating the Lykae inside. He wants them alive to enslave them all - including Kereny's babies. But Kereny and Munro planned a trap...with themselves as bait. The Nymphs are waiting in the trees outside the compound and wreak unholy vengeance for the sacrifice of their comrades on the warlocks, killing all of them.
Kereny delivers the first baby, but the second one is stuck and she must release her beast to push him out. When she does she is rendered unconscious. In her subconscious she meets her beast. Instead of out-alphaing it as the other Lykae have told her to do, she knows her beast is too clever for that, and instead befriends it, asking it to trust her. She succeeds and wakes up in control.
In the prologue Lothaire and Nix travel to a dungeon under the Bloodroot Forrest where Lothaire was tortured for 600 years. Inside, they find The Lykae Prince Heath, made into a Lykae vampire.